Flashy Profile Flies by Kate & Bill Howe With very few exceptions, all fish eat other fish. Those that eat and those that are eaten have been doing this thing for thousands of years, and with practice comes perfection. The greatest factor that brings on a feeding response from a game fish is prey recognition. During a specie's evolution, which is always ongoing, there are constant changes occurring. The fastest out live the slowest, the strongest outlive the weak. The fish with the most ability to survive is usually the one to go on and add his traits to the gene pool. And one of the most important survival skills that a game fish possess is the ability to recognize prey, to differentiate between the delicious and the dangerous. And the most important survival techniques that food fishes have are those of group protection and camouflage. Baitfish that depend on camouflage alone for survival are more often solitary in nature living in or near structure that helps to hide them. The young of many fishes also depend on their almost colorless bodies to provide them with a kind of camouflage until they are large enough to leave the sanctuary of their shallow nursery waters. But the schooling baitfish is a different story. They depend on group protection, sheer numbers protect the mass from total annihilation. They have no true camouflage as a group except that the flashiness of their bodies and their movement en mass seems to have no beginning and no end which may help to add some confusion in the feeding malay and allow a greater survival rate for the group. As a mass or ball of bait fish moves they give off signals both audible and visual to feeding fish that might just as well say EAT HERE! And one of the most recognizable signals inherent in all schooling bait fishes is their flash. It is an axiom that form, silhouette and color play a very important role in fly construction. But these elements are more important once the offering comes under close scrutiny, the most prominent feature a baitfish has that may stimulate an initial investigative response from a predator is it's visual presence, and this presence is detected by the flash. Let's put this in it's proper perspective. The fish is a very primitive animal. The impulses to their brains from their senses are very basic. They do not reason. They only react to stimuli to fill very simple needs. We as anglers have a tendency to attribute more intellect to them than they deserve, and we often go to extremes to create flies that suggest realism to the ninth degree. Perhaps by accentuating certain recognizable traits in bait imitations, such as the flash, we may find it easier to get and hold a fishes attention. As an example, let's take a look at fishes of the Silversides family. These include the California Grunion, Jack Smelt, Top Smelt (which are not true smelt) as well as the Atlantic Silversides. There are both salt and fresh water species of silversides that inhabit the temperate to tropical zones. The marine species can be found in large schools in many inshore waters. This makes them an important food for game fish. Flies imitating these types of bait fish are extremely important to anglers. The Silversides in it's mature form is a small, sometimes almost transparent fish with back colors that range from Dk. gray- black to a pale seafoam green. Their sides and belly are an iridescent silvery color. When seen under water their most striking feature is the flash coming from their sides, sparked by whatever available light is penetrating the water column. As tiers this should alert us to the fact that we are not as concerned with actual motion or color contrast as with giving the impression of these basic elements that attract attention. It is this flash that brings the first response, which is investigation, if the bait is then recognized as a food form and nothing elicits a fear or caution response feeding takes place. How should we imitate the flashing sides of a baitfish. How much flash is enough where should it be placed in a pattern and what types are most effective? After buying every flash material on the market, and experimenting with them all, we have drawn some unique conclusions. For imitating the flashing sides of baitfishes, regardless of their color, the #1 choice is stranded pearlescent flash such as Flashabou. We use the fine for small flies up to about 3/0 or 4/0 and the large saltwater type for bigger patterns such as offshore and billfish flies. Pearlescent color is the easiest choice to make as it will mimic the colors of materials that it is mixed with. This material tied in large amounts (at least 1/2 of total profile of your fly) in the center of the pattern simulates the iridescent sides of most baits. For simulating the refracted colors that bounce off of baitfish and imply motion, holographic mylars have no rival. Unlike transparent or single color flashes, holographic materials are three dimensional. This effect is achieved by reflecting laser light off of photo film without the use of a camera. Some holographic flashes are the result of this single process, others have an additional image such as fish scale or prismatic. This three dimensional effect adds real animation to a fly as these materials not only reflect but refract light and it takes very little light and movement to activate them. Holographic materials should be mixed throughout the entire pattern to take advantage of all light sources and give your fly "life". It is the combination of these two materials that best simulate the dynamic color changes that appear to be taking place in moving bait fish. The amount of flash you use is based on several factors, off color water conditions usually call for extra flash to help increase your flies visibility. Overcast skies can dull a flies appearance, and flash, especially holographic will help you to use all the available light to accentuate your pattern, but the most important consideration is matching the flashiness of the bait you are imitating. Tiers that take some time to study the bait species that they are imitating will have a much better success rate with their flies than those who do not. No matter how much flash you use it is better to have a little too much than not enough. You can always cut a little bit of flash out of a pattern if your are getting refusals but you can't add flash after the fact. To effectively incorporate flashy materials into fly patterns you must first understand their characteristics and have a good working knowledge of how they function under water. Mylar tubing products, used for solid bodied flies such as Zonkers and hard bodied minnows are great for smaller patterns, especially when the hook shank length is equivalent to fly length. But they can be limiting due to their small diameters and the fact that in larger flies the hook shank area most often only represents 1/4 of the total surface area of the bait fish fly. They also offer only one stationery surface for reflection and must have quite a bit of action imparted to them in order to take advantage of their reflective qualities. Mylar sheeting such as eye panels are also useful but again only add flash to a specific area. Due to their rigid nature mylar sheeting products are terminal as they are easily ripped out and they may also cause problems with a patterns fishability as they have a tendency to plane in the water and cause the fly to have an erratic action. Stranded flashes such as Flashabou, Krystal Flash, Holo Flash and the like are by far the best as they are simply the easiest to use. When sitting down at the vise to design your own Flashy Profile Flies you may use any number of different tying methods and your choice of body materials. To overcome some of the more obvious problems that we have encountered with stranded flash we have adapted and developed some techniques that have now become standard in all of our patterns that incorporate flash. Generally we start our patterns with a base material such as crinkle nylon, tied in along the hook shank at it's center point and folded back over itself to form the tail of the pattern. Folding of synthetic materials such as flash and nylons increases their durability at the tie in point and will increase a flies fishing life. This "tail" forms a base for the flash to be supported by, helps to keep the flash from fouling the hook when cast, and is the beginning of your dorsal-ventral shilouette or profile. Whether you are using synthetic materials or natural for your body construction you should still apply your flash with this folding technique as it will be more secure and less likely to pull out. Once this supporting layer has been tied in the next step is to begin building a "flashy profile". Using pearlescent stranded mylar, cut hanks twice the length of the flies desired length and using the folding method tie them in along the top side of the hook shank only, one right after the other. This method is called the Hi-Ti and it has been around for years. It is recognized as a standard for building flies with deep body silhouettes. We use the Hi-Ti method to apply both flash and body material. To avoid the clumping effect that flash exhibits when wet you need to stagger the ends dramatically before tying them in. This is easily accomplished by running the material up and down between your fingers after you have cut it from the hank. Try not be too concerned with loose ends and wild hairs ! This is the effect that you are trying to create. A kind of controlled chaos of flash and color, after all nothing in nature is perfect. Don't be stingy with the amount you use either, for small patterns of 4/0 and under use at least 40 to 50 strands of fine flash for each application. For larger flies use the wide saltwater variety of flash and make sure each bunch has at least 10 to 15 strands. Usually three applications of flash tied in, in this manner are enough to create the desired effect. Now that the flashy profile is complete you need only add the materials to your fly that are needed to form the back. This is also the area that you will apply your colored materials to imitate your bait species. In studying bait fishes you will notice that obvious coloration only occurs in this upper quadrant of the profile. Keep your colored area sparse and emphasize each color with the addition of colored flashes that will accent them. As far as body materials go we prefer synthetics such as crinkle nylon as this material allow us to construct a fly that has a very deep profile but a thin body. This gives a pattern a visible presence in the water without adding excess weight and bulk. Since big fish have big teeth the synthetic materials have become a most intelligent choice as they are more durable and will withstand a great deal of abuse. As far as their use for imitating bait fish they are unsurpassed. There are more colors available than in any other single material and the small diameter of the nylon allows a tier to mix an unlimited number of them to truly match the bait fish hatch. Flashy Profile Flies tie just as well with natural materials, i.e.; bucktail, saddle hackle, peacock herl etc. however care should be taken to limit the amount of these materials used so that the fly's balance and form are not compromised. As natural materials have a tendency to float until they are completely saturated with water you must make sure that your fly will swim properly. The addition of too much buoyant material in one place and not enough in another will give your pattern an unnatural swimming motion when fished and unnatural swimming will cause a caution response in feeding fish just as quickly as a poor imitation will. The concept of the Flashy Profile Fly came about from a need to simulate motion through flash and not through bulk, therefore this style of fly allows a tier to create a fly of tremendous visual presence without the bulk of too much material. Great care should be taken to produce patterns, regardless of materials, that not only look like bait fish but act like them. Remember, the most important aspect of the F.P.F are it's flashy sides. We tie F.P.F's from size #4 at 2 long (for small inshore and costal baitfish imitations) up to 10/0 tandem rigs that measure a full 16" to 18" inches long and 6" deep which are very popular in Australia for big billfish. Having fished this style of fly both inshore and offshore we find them to be consistently productive. Their unique flashy nature allows them to be fished with less imparted action, such as stripping, and this keeps them in the strike zone much longer which after all is where a fly needs to be. We only suggest you tie some and try them for yourself.